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July 19 2013

10:22 AM

Westwood calls 68 a 'bonus'


Lee Westwood's best Open finish is second in 2010 at St. Andrews.

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

GULLANE, Scotland -- Lee Westwood planned to head back to the house, stretch out on the couch and watch some of The Ashes, a test cricket match between England and Australia that has been played biennially since 1882.

Oh, and after taking full advantage of that morning tee time at Muirfield with a round of 68, Westwood might be inclined to check out the BBC coverage of The Open Championship and "watch some struggles," too.

The Englishman knows first-hand what the players who tee off in the afternoon will face as the greens get crusty and pick up speed. He said he quite "enjoyed" the challenge on Thursday as he shot 72 but playing his first 12 holes of the second round in 6 under was even more fun.

"It was a test, a different kind of test yesterday," Westwood said. "You come out in the morning and you expect that you have slightly (better) scoring conditions, and they were, the greens were slightly softer. ... They start to firm up pretty quickly. I was pleased to be 6 under through 12. I was playing some great stuff. And it was just getting harder as the holes progressed, tougher to score, tougher to get it close."

Westwood, who has played in 61 majors and is still looking for his first victory, said he would have expected to still be in contention with a round of even par on Friday. He called the 68 a "bonus," adding that 2 under "could be leading at the end of the day, you never know."

Westwood has been working with Sean Foley, the swing coach for Tiger Woods, Justin Rose and Hunter Mahan -- to drop a few names. He also has enlisted former Open champ Ian Baker-Finch to address his putting, which can sometimes be his weakest link.

"I got a couple of tips on getting tension out of my arms and having a bit more control," Westwood said. "And I'm getting it on line nicely, and I've gauged the pace of the greens as well."

Westwood, who has two top-3 finishes in his last four Open Championships, said he's always felt Muirfield suited his game. He's managed to hole what he called the "momentum" putts and that ability impressed Charl Schwarltzel, who played with Westwood in the first two  rounds.

"Around this sort of golf course those par putts are birdie putts on other tournaments," the South African said. "And he's done that and that's definitely kept him up in his confidence. You can see the way he's walking and the way he's playing. Definitely a danger, man."

Westwood has only hit 13 of 28 fairways and 21 of 36 greens. But he's been able to flight his ball low and take advantage of the bone-dry conditions.

Ane besides, the only number that really mattered was the 68 and the 2 under standing on the leaderboard.

"I love playing The Open Championship," Westwood said. "This is the biggest tournament of the year for me, being a Brit, and it being played in Britain.

"And why not enjoy it out there? It's tough for everybody. So smile your way through."

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